JELLICO, Tenn. (WATE) – Jellico Medical Center is preparing to reopen after closing more than six months ago. Mayor Dwight Osborn confirmed Thursday city leaders approved a lease agreement with Boa Vida earlier this year.
The company was selected to operate the hospital out of several interested parties, according to Osborn. He said company is “in the process of getting everything ready for an opening.” Their website makes mention of a new Jellico location but does not include any opening date.
Mayor Osborn said he and Vice Mayor Jerry Neal vetted several companies thoroughly before reaching their decision. That vetting included looking into companies’ current operations, speaking with staff at their existing facilities, as well as a few city managers.
The hospital is owned by the City of Jellico.
In February, the Jellico Board of Mayor and Aldermen agreed to terminate the lease with the previous hospital operator, Rennova Health. The hospital officially closed shortly after. The notice to vacate followed another letter, dated Dec. 29, requesting changes to their operations, including maintenance to the hospital’s boiler, HVAC, and plumbing.
Osborn said the city is working to secure grants for building upgrades but said Boa Vida is also investing money into the building. The 20-year lease agreement, like previous arrangements, includes the company paying $1 annually to the city and maintaining the building. That aspect of the agreement is according to the mayor, though we are waiting for a copy of the official agreement.
Both parties are “doing everything we can to get it open,” Osborn said. While he said the reopening process is coming along, he added “it’s going to take more time to make needed repairs.” In addition to grants, the city is also exploring whether some funds from the American Rescue Plan, passed in March, can be spent on the hospital.
The mayor praised efforts from the state with guidance and assistance in moving the process along. While he’s noticed human resources personnel, maintenance staff, lab specialists, and other contractors on-site, he does not have a projected opening date.
Larry Rector, COO and CFO for Dayspring Health, said there’s a lot of excitement surrounding a reopening. “As a rural, community, health center, we don’t have all the resources to kind of fill in all the gaps. That’s why having a community hospital is so important… you lose the ability to do those tests, like labs, and x-rays, and CT scans, which puts our providers in a tough position, to provide care lacking those test results,” he said.
While they’re feeling the impact, he noted the biggest impact has been on the community lacking access to an emergency room. “What we’re seeing is a lot of patients are either delaying care or just forgoing it altogether until they’re in a life situation, a life or death situation,” Rector added.